Left fielder Michael Morse is expected to report to extended spring training in Viera, Fla., on Monday, moving one step closer to a return to the Nationals lineup.
Morse, out since March with a torn right lat muscle, took swings off a tee today for the first time since he was shut down from all baseball activities roughly six weeks ago. He also played catch with head trainer Lee Kuntz, throwing from about 50 feet at about 50 percent velocity, and emerged saying his arm and shoulder felt strong.
With the Nationals opening a nine-game road trip next week, Morse will leave Washington and advance his rehab in Florida, where he'll start getting at-bats in extended spring training games. If that goes well, he will probably play in at least a couple of rehab games with one of the Nationals' minor-league clubs. He could then be activated off the disabled list in time for the start of their next homestand, June 1 against the Braves.
"I think he can probably make his schedule and come off the road trip," manager Davey Johnson said today. "It'll be real close."
Bryce Harper struggled by his standards in 2016 and he says he know why it happened last year. While it was rumored last season that he was playing through injuries, Harper never really missed significant time, nor did he really say that his injuries were the reason for his disappointing numbers.
Speaking with the media today at spring training, Harper hinted at his injuries from last season as he said he was just trying to stay in the lineup every day.
Although Harper's statistics dropped off dramatically from his MVP season in 2015, his numbers weren't entirely awful last year. He still hit 24 homers, drove in 86 runs and he had an .814 OPS.
With a full offseason to heal up, Harper will be a prime bounce-back candidate as he looks to help the Nationals win their third NL East title in the last four years.
Related: Sorry D.C. sports fans, Bryce Harper is a Dallas Cowboys fan
The Nationals aren't certain to have ace Max Scherzer ready to pitch for Opening Day. Scherzer, 32, was unable to compete in the World Baseball Classic this summer due to a stress fracture in his right ring finger.
When he spoke to the media today at the first bullpen session of spring training, he said that the fracture has healed but the symptoms continue.
Scherzer also said he'd just started throwing again this week. Manager Dusty Baker confimed that the Nationals don't know whether Scherzer will be ready to start the season.
Any time a team's star pitcher suffers an unusual hand injury, it's cause for concern for the club and fans.
Scherzer won the NL Cy Young Award last season and posted a 20-7 record as a starter. He also led the MLB with 284 strikeouts.
Scherzer is an especially vital part of the Nationals rotation considering the injury history of Stephen Strasburg, who landed on the DL twice last season, once with soreness in the elbow that needed Tommy John surgery in 2010.
MORE NATIONALS: RANKING ALL 30 MLB LOGOS FROM WORST TO FIRST